vera zvonereva

Sam Stosur wins epic match with Maria Kirilenko

Australia’s Sam Stosur progressed to her second consecutive US Open quarter-final with a thrilling win over Maria Kirilenko that included the longest ever tie-break seen at a Grand Slam.

Stosur took the first set 6-2 before Kirilenko recovered and took the second into a tie-break. Neither player would give an inch, stretching the set to an hour and 24 minutes in length, and Kirilenko finally took it 17-15 to bring a roar from the crowd and put the two stars in the record books.

But rather than collapse, Stosur fought back again and was too strong for the 24-year-old Russian, eventually triumphing 6-2, 6-7(15), 6-3.

The number nine seed will now face the number two seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarters after the Russian triumphed in straight set over German Wimbledon quarter-finalist Sabine Lisicki.

 

“Obviously I knew it was pretty long,” Stosur said of the mammoth tie-break. “I lost track of the score, I didn’t know at one point if I should be serving or receiving. With all the [line-calling] challenges it was super exciting. The crowd was into it. I couldn’t hear myself think.”

Italy’s Flavia Pennetta joined Stosur in the next round as she entered her third US Open quarter-final with a win over 13th seed Shuai Peng of China.

Pennetta followed up her impressive win over Maria Sharapova in the previous round with a nervous encounter against the rising star Shuai.

The 29-year-old appeared to vomit at the back of the court when serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set and was consequently broken.

But despite trailing 0-5 and 2-6 in the tie-break, she managed to prevent Shuai from forcing a deciding set and secured a 6-4, 7-6(6) win.

She will next meet Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who sealed her progression with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Romania’s Monica Niculescu.

In the men’s draw, world number four Andy Murray breezed in to the last 16 with a straightforward 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 25th seed Feliciano Lopez.

The 24-year-old dominated in this night session encounter and he has set himself up a revenge encounter with American youngster Donald Young who shocked him earlier this year at Indian Wells.

“I played some good tennis towards the end of the first match, the second match was poor – I didn’t think it was great but I found a way to get through – and tonight was good,” said Murray, assessing his US Open journey so far. “But so much can change in a couple of days and you just need to make sure you stay focused on the next match.”

Rafael Nadal is also safely through despite collapsing in his post-match interview with cramp after the Spaniard defeated Argentina’s David Nalbandian in an enticing match on Arthur Ashe Court.

The first set lasted over an hour before Nadal closed the tie-break out at 7-5, cruised through the second and was then made to work hard in the third for a 7-6(5), 6-1, 7-5 win.

Gilles Simon shocked the 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro with a four-set victory, including two tie-breaks, to halt another Argentinean’s progress, while John Isner, Andy Roddick and Young kept the New York crowd happy with wins for the American stars.

Sabine Lisicki overcomes Marion Bartoli and elements to make semis

German wild card entrant Sabine Lisicki continued her amazing Wimbledon run by beating France’s Marion Bartoli to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

The 21-year-old defeated the 2007 finalist, who had halted Serena Williams in the previous round, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 and will now go on to face Russia’s Maria Sharapova who annihilated Dominika Cibulkova in their quarterfinal.

It is a dream run for Lisicki who dropped as low as No.218 in the world as she battled severe injuries to both ankles. It will also be a relief to her that she came through after squandering match points in the second set. In a similar situation at this year’s French Open she lost to Vera Zvonereva in round two after failing to take match points and had to be stretchered off the court in tears.

Her form looked to have improved with her AEGON Classic final win over Daniela Hantuchova and she now adds Bartoli’s name to that of French Open Champion Li Na on her list of victims at the All England Club.

Both players showed early nerves, swapping breaks at the start of the first set. They had endured a 15-minute delay while the roof was closed on Center Court and Lisicki in particular seemed jumpy as the thunderstorm roaring on outside made hearing the calls of the linesman and umpire difficult.

But when Lisicki broke again in game three something inside her clicked and she looked dominant throughout the first set, which she clinched in just 43 minutes.

In to the second and she seemed to grow in confidence. Her serve looked much safer than Bartoli’s and Lisicki seemed to be able to find winners from impossible angles that left the notoriously sluggish Gaul often rooted to the spot.

But then serving for the set at 5-4 in the second her nerve seemed to desert her, akin to that Zvonereva encounter at Roland Garros.

Three match points went begging as her serve brutally deserted her and after some mesmerising rallies, one including a sumptuous backhand lob from the German that had Bartoli scrambling, the Frenchwoman levelled, before comfortably forcing a deciding set in the tiebreaker.

Yet the tiredness shown throughout due to 26-year-old Bartoli’s draining win over Williams junior in the previous round began to show, and despite getting more first serves in than her opponent her points won on serve ratio of 55% was well below the 71% posted by her opponent, and this is where her game truly unravelled in set three.

Lisicki raced in to a 3-0 lead and Bartoli’s head dropped, allowing her to become the first German woman in to a Grand Slam semi since the dominant Steffi Graf in 1999.

Her run continues the rebirth of women’s tennis in Germany that has seen Lisicki, as well as Julia Georges and Andrea Petkovic, upsetting the game’s big names regularly this year.

Sharapova awaits next after thrashing Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1 to cement herself as the firm favourite to lift the SW19 crown.

She remains the only Grand Slam winner left in the draw and was many people’s favourite to take the title from the off. She will also take comfort from her equally merciless 6-2, 6-0 thumping of Lisicki back in Miami this year.

The 2004 winner displayed immense power and accuracy from the off and it was hard to see how Cibulkova had overcome world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round.

Cibulkova won the first game, but Sharapova went on a devastating run of eight-straight games to leave her opponent shell-shocked.

Yet the 22-year-old Slovakian had lost the first set to Wozniacki 1-6 before coming back to shock the Dane. She broke back to 1-2 in the second and murmurs began to run around the enclosed arena that another such reversal could be on the cards.

But it wasn’t to be. Sharapova’s 23 winners and thunderous ground strokes, coupled with Cibulkova’s poor taking of 40% of points on her serve meant that Sharapova was left to romp home to victory with very little exertion.

Serena in hospital dash, Djokovic equals Dubai record and del Potro back to winning ways

Serena In Lung Clot Scare:

Serena Williams was rushed in to hospital for emergency treatment on a blood clot found in her lung, according to People magazine. Her representative, Nicole Chabot, confirmed in a statement to the publication that Williams had indeed been visiting Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recently and was rushed in on Monday for emergency treatment on a pulmonary embolism discovered over the course of her care. “Monday Serena Williams underwent emergency treatment at Cedars for a hematoma she suffered as a result of treatment for a more critical situation,” Chabot said. “Last week, Serena suffered from a pulmonary embolism [a blood clot in the lungs] which was discovered upon her return to L.A. She had been in New York for doctor appointments for the ongoing issues with her foot.”

Djokovic Makes it Three on the Spin:

Novak Djokovic equalled the record of three straight titles at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open with an emphatic straight sets victory over Roger Federer in the final on Saturday. The world number three outplayed 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer in a 6-3, 6-3 victory despite trailing 1-3 in the second set. Bouncing back to take the next five games the Serbian showed the same form which saw him overcome his illustrious Swiss opponent in the semi-final at Melbourne Park on the way to his second Australian Open title. The writing was on the wall for Federer in just the third game as Djokovic broke the world number two’s serve before going on to comprehensively take the first set. “I was aware of the challenge that is expected of me on the court, and I was aware of the fact that I need to be on top of my game in order to beat Roger,” said Djokovic. “So the focus was there. I was serving really well, especially the first set. Just the perfect performance overall.” Federer spoke about the two players’ recent rivalry: “We’ve had it kind of come and go in spells a bit against each other. I definitely feel he’s playing well. I thought he was already playing well at the end of last year. We had a couple real close ones. This one has been one of the rather disappointing matches for me against him.”

del Potro back in the Winner’s Circle:

Juan Martin del Potro lifted his first title since the 2009 US Open by overcoming Janko Tipsarevic in the final at Delray Beach. The Argentine won 6-4, 6-4 in what will be a sweet return to form for the man who only played three tournaments in 2010 due to a serious wrist injury. He only entered the tournament as a wildcard and was ranked as low as No. 484 in the world last month. It follows on from two semifinal postings in his last two events at San Jose and Memphis. “I feel completely tired but it’s amazing for me, this comeback,” said Del Potro. “I’m trying to improve my game day by day. Today Janko played better than me I think, but I had a little luck in the important moments. I was playing at night every match and today was a little bit hot for me. I just tried to focus on my serve, especially on my break points.”

Zvonereva Triumphs in Qatar:

Second seed Vera Zvonereva extracted revenge for her finals defeat in Beijing last year by overcoming the world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Qatar Open on the weekend. The Russian took an hour and 49 minutes to see out the victory which ended the Dane’s hopes of back to back titles following her win in Dubai last week. Zvonereva even trailed a break in the second set but turned it round to secure the win in straights. It was her first victory in three Doha finals appearances. “It’s a special moment for me,” said Zvonareva. “I have so many fans here and it’s an unbelievable feeling to come to Doha and win this tournament. It was a tough match and I had to play aggressive and go for my shots.” Wozniacki was very complimentary of her opponent: “I had a great few days but today it was Vera’s day,” she said. “I had my chances but she really played well. I failed to convert several break points. I’m always disappointed to lose but I played a great competitor today. Vera played a great match and a great tournament.”

Raonic in for IW:

Rising Canadian star Milos Raonic has been handed a wildcard for the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season beginning in Indian Wells on March 7. The BNP Paribas Open is always one of the best tournaments of the year and Raonic will be joined by Americans James Blake and Ryan Harrison, Kei Nishikori of Japan and Australia’s Bernard Tomic in being able to avoid the qualifying campaign. In the women’s game young American starlets Coco Vandeweghe, Christine McHale, Lauren Davis and Sloan Stephens are all in as is returning Indian star Sania Mirza and American seniors Vania King and Jill Craybas.

“Dominance Over,” Says Nadal:

Rafa Nadal believes that the dominance he and rival Roger Federer once shared over the Grand Slams is now over. The pair have amassed 21 major titles since the 2005 French Open but the continued improvements of the likes of Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling and Andy Murray mean the Top 2 no longer continually face each other in the final. “In 2005, 2006 and 2007, perhaps you could say there was a bit of a monopoly, but it was down to Federer,” he told the Spanish media. “I was also there, but a little less. For sure I think this monopoly ended some time ago. There are many players ready to challenge now.”

Ferrer Halts Almagro Run:

David Ferrer became the first man to defeat Nicolas Almagro in fourteen matches as he successfully defended his Abierto Mexicano TELCEL title in Acapulco. It also prevented Almagro from becoming the first man ever to win three of the Golden Swing South American tournaments in one year. It was a tight affair involving two tie-breakers which Ferrer finally won 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 6-2 in order to collect 500 South African Airways ATP Rankings Points and a cheque for $264,000. “It was a very intense match with a lot of rallies in the first and second set; we played a lot of great points,” reflected the 28-year-old. “In the third [set], I think I was better physically and he started making more mistakes. My error was that after coming back and winning the first set, I relaxed in the second and he started attacking a lot more.”

Fish Swimming to Newport:

Mardy Fish has confirmed he will be returning to the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer to defend the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships he picked up last year. The world No. 15 will be making his ninth appearance in Rhode Island and last year’s title provided the springboard for his excellent late-season run which made him some people’s outside bet for a finals weekend appearance at the US open. That didn’t materialise but the 29-year-old but he will be hoping for a similarly successful 2011. “Newport was a great week for me last year. It was good to see all the work I’d put into training pay off with a title,” said Fish. “The Hall of Fame is a special place to compete and I look forward to returning to the tournament this summer.”

Federer’s Sporting Blacklist:

World No. 2 Roger Federer has declared that while he is an avid fan of many sports, ping pong is the only one he allows himself to play for fear of injuring himself. Skiing, football and squash were all favoured pursuits of the 16-time Grand Slam winner but he fears that taking part in any of them could harm his career should he pick up an injury. “To be quite honest, I do miss [skiing],” he said. “I used to do it up until a few years ago. Last time I skied was in 2008 when I had mono. Came back after the Australian Open, went skiing, and next day I got ill again. So I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a sign for me. No more skiing. That’s a pity, but okay, we’ll do that.’ Soccer I haven’t played much either. I remember when I had the groin issue in Wimbledon. Then I went to Gstaad and I really couldn’t move well. I mean, I won the doubles with [former Russian star Marat] Safin and stuff. But I went to play soccer that whole week as well and couldn’t move at the end. So it was just so silly of me. I did the same with squash as well.”

Nadal “100% Fit” Ahead of Return:

Rafa Nadal has declared he is 100% fit ahead of returning to action for Spain in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie with Belgium this weekend. The world No. 1 has not played since injuring his thigh as he crashed out to David Ferrer in the quaterfinals of the Australian Open. “If I am here it is because, physically, I am 100%,” said the 24-year-old. “I already start to practise a few weeks ago so I’m happy to be back in competition, back in important competition like Davis Cup. And, for sure, it’s a motivation to be back on the team. And sure it’s going to be a difficult confrontation against Belgium.” Nadal has not represented Spain since helping them to their fourth Davis Cup win in 2009.

No-Djo for Defending Champions:

Novak Djokovic has announced via his official website that he will not be participating in the beginning of Serbia’s Davis Cup defence against India this weekend. The statement doesn’t give a reason for the decision but says: “After winning the Australian Open and completing a hat-trick of Dubai Championships titles, Nole is heading to California so he can prepare for a run on US hard courts from March 10 when Indian Wells, the first of the nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, starts. Djokovic is hoping to continue the year strong.” It continues: “Everyone in the Serbian team knows it won’t be the same without Novak, but players, the reigning world champions, are optimistic and believe they will beat India without Nole in the squad.” Meanwhile Sam Querrey will be missing for the United States this weekend with a shoulder problem.

Dulko Not Just a Dual Force:

Gisela Dulko showed that whilst being a dab hand at doubles she can also play for herself by becoming the first Argentinean woman to triumph at the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL in Acapulco on Saturday. She triumphed over the Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja. She only dropped eight games in total in three of her matches whilst Laura Pous-Tio was the only lady to take a set off her in the whole Championships at the quarterfinal stage. “Finals are always special and we were both nervous in the first set, but after that I was playing much better,” the pin-up commented. “All of a sudden I started to get a bit nervous again and Arantxa started playing so well. I was three set points down. At the end I ended up winning, so I’m really happy. I love this tournament but I was always struggling here. I felt great this week though, on and off the court. I couldn’t go to the beach too much though, so I’ll try to do that tomorrow morning before I leave.” It is the fourth WTA singles title of her career.

Levy Breaks:

Israeli Harel Levy has retired from tennis aged 32. The former world No. 30 had his career somewhat thwarted by a hip injury since that watershed mark in 2001 but he remained a key component of Israel’s Davis Cup team. “I had the honour to be ranked among the top players in the world and experienced amazing things that were only cut abruptly by my injury,” he said. “I battled my injury hoping for some more success and got it with the Davis Cup team in recent years. Tennis has given me so much, but now it is time for me to dedicate myself to my family.”

Slow Movement in the Rankings Watch:

There was no change at all within the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Tour Rankings but the Croat Marin Cilic was back in to the Top 20 this week. Spain’s Marcello Granollers was back in the Top 50 at No. 49 while Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos is in to the Top 100. Juan Martin del Potro’s win at Delray Beach sees him leap 77 places in the rankings to No. 89. The same can be said for the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. The Russian Nadia Petrova is the only high-ranking mover as she re-enters the Top 20 from No. 22. her compatriot Vera Dushevina (No. 50) and Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino (No. 48) are in to the Top 50. Gisela Dulko’s title at Acapulco sees her leap from No. 73 to No. 56 in the world while the woman she conquered, Arrantxa Para Santonja, is up 20 to No. 59. The American Jill Craybas (No. 99) and Italy’s Alberta Brianti enter the Top 100.

Roger Careers Ahead in GOAT Race:

While Rafa Nadal awaits this weekend’s Davis Cup tie to return to action Roger Federer has been making good ground in his nemesis’ absence. Reaching the Dubai final last week and losing to Novak Djokovic earned him an extra 100 points to add to his total. With the American hard court season kicking off next week at Indian Wells the next couple of months could be very interesting for the two rivals.

Roger: 440, Rafa: 130

Clijsters and Venus Serve up Spectacular

Well, given Venus’ penchant for a double fault last night I’m not too sure if that is the correct title.

Fans of beautiful tennis may not have been heavily impressed by the first two and a half sets but those who appreciate sheer guts and determination would have been gripped to their TV sets like never before.

The sporting cliché “refuses to lay down and die” was whipped out by both players who looked like two ageing stars playing their last Slam in terms of grit and determination to stay in the competition.

Then, with Clijsters 4-3 and 30-0 up in the third set the match exploded in to one of the most breathtaking and clinical displays of tennis seen this fortnight.

Venus showed some trademark Williams grit and clawed her way back to 4-4, courtesy of a horrifying Clijsters miss with an over-hit volley.

At this point it looked curtains for Belgian Kim. Surely her wits were abandoning her and it was time to return to baby Jada while Williams slugged it out with Vera Zvonereva for the title? Not a chance!

Putting pressure on Venus’ serve Kim began finding some impossible angles with that backhand and then produced one of the most sumptuous lobs I have ever witnessed to fight back and put Venus to the sword.

At 5-4 and Clijsters serving for the set Venus looked perilously close to tears. She, more than anyone else, was wondering how this had happened.

Venus had looked dominant taking the first set off the two-time defending Champion and when Clijsters threw away a 2-0 lead in the second it looked like Venus was to stride home in straight sets.

But Kim showed the fighting spirit which has epitomised her comeback from becoming a mother and those who claim that tennis now plays second fiddle to her family probably haven’t watched her play too often. This was definitely pride in tennis. A pride in her career and a will to give Jada something to be immensely proud of as she grows older.

The records are waiting for her. She is now unbeaten in 20 consecutive US Open matches which equals Venus’ best effort as well as Monica Seles, Margaret Osborne du Pont and Martina Navratilova. Only Chris Evert stands ahead of her on 31. Three more titles Kim and then you can stop.

Awaiting her is Wimbledon finalist Zvonereva who is gunning for her first Slam. Kim has a 5-2 record over the No. 7 seed but Vera has won both matches since Kim’s return to the tour.

A few people are backing Vera after she toppled the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki but for me it is written for Kim to lift this. I have been wrong (many times) before but I will be gunning for Kim to keep the flag flying for working mothers above Flushing Meadows.

“I just tried to make the points and when I felt I had an opportunity to step up and accelerate I tried to take advantage,” Clijsters said in typical modest fashion.

But play it down all she likes this girl is dynamite. And come 3am tomorrow morning (British time) Kim will be lifting her third consecutive crown and taking all the plaudits once more.

Zvonereva is a quiet player with efficient and effective shot selections. She has snuck in to this final through the back door as all the talk has been of other stars. This makes her extremely dangerous. But Kim knows all about doing that from last year’s Championship. This will give her the upper hand and she’ll be too much for young Vera.

Kim to take it in three.